Sitting back down at his desk Joshua looked up at the door, wondering if someone else would now knock on it. After thirty seconds, when it remained un-knocked-on he allowed himself to relax and a little, and looked at his desk. The Macbook was now fully charged and was showing a little green light on the power cable, and the journal that had caused all these recent problems was still sitting there, with its bookmark in place. Curious, he picked it up and opened it again, and started to re-read the first couple of pages, wondering if he’d missed a statement of where these notes that the paper claimed to be analysing had come from.
There was a brief paragraph headed Provenance of the notes that discussed their finding in the attic of a house somewhere, but the location of the house wasn’t given:
I had been spending some days with my invalid mother and had taken the opportunity afforded by her afternoon sleep to wander through the house. With her condition deteriorating before my eyes, it occurred to me that I might soon be called upon to dispose of the possessions here, and I was curious as to whether this would be a chore or a tragedy. The rooms I walked through were small and cluttered, and it seemed to my eyes that much of what she had accumulated over her life was junk. I resolved immediately upon my return home to review my own possessions and to discard those that served no obvious purpose, or which had sat untended for a period longer than six months. Then I came upon the attic stair, whose door was locked at the bottom, and decided to see what was up there. I was pessimistic, given the remainder of the house, and the tendency of things unwanted to migrate up to the attic where they could be forgotten in silence, but when I stood there I could see that there was but a cot, made up ready for a visitor, a small square of carpet on the otherwise bare floorboards, and a writing bureau and chair that my mother could surely not have brought up the stairs by herself.
I sat myself at the bureau and opened it, wondering if was at all used. To my astonishment I found these notes, written in a scrawled hand that appeared to have learned its letter ill, and dated but three months earlier. I started to read them, and though they were strange and used odd symbology, I recognised that they were mathematical in nature. At that moment my mother roused herself and called for me, her voice still as strident in her illness as it had been when I was but a naughty child to be chastised. I gathered up the notes and took them with me, intending to ask her about them, but when I descended to her room she was vomiting noisomely and as I went about cleaning up my discovery was forgotten for the nonce.
She died three days hence, and with her my chance to determine whence these notes had come.
Venkat had suggested Oakvell, but for all Joshua knew the man was just trying to lure him to some place for reasons of his own. He shivered, wondering if he’d been in any danger in talking to him. At least they’d been in the coffee lounge and there’d been other people around.
He looked at the Macbook and opened up a browser in which to load google maps. When he typed Oakvell in the search bar it responded almost immediately, producing a collections of streets and a couple of paid-for adverts for businesses. He zoomed out slowly until he could see the general area better, and realised that it was about fifty miles south-west of the university campus. In the zoomed-out view he could easily see that it was a tiny little place, probably the kind of place that you could drive straight through without realising that it was there. If you drove, which he didn’t.
He went back to the journal, skimming through the article to see if there was anything further on that he might have missed, or not yet read thoroughly. There was nothing, and he was about to close the journal and forget all about it when the correspondence address for the author, right at the end of the article, caught his eye.
It was Sherwood University.